For my small-n research approach, I ask: What explains variation in female involvement in peace-building processes?

Women are still far behind on basic pillars of gender equality compared to their male counterparts. How then, do women sometimes post war and conflict, lead the way in those peace-building efforts, despite the institutional and social setbacks? How does this female leadership in conflict resolution happen? What explains it?

The article “Explaining the Variation in Gender Composition of Personnel Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations” by Kerry F. Crawford, James H. Lebovic, and Julia M. Macdonald, investigates, as the title suggests, the variation in female participation in peacebuilding efforts, particularly in UN Peacekeeping Operations. [1] The article “presents theoretical explanations for the varying contributions of personnel to UNPOs—including the political and socioeconomic character of the contributing states, international reputations and norms, and various demand-side influences exerted by missions—and then tests these explanations with a cross-sectional time-series model that accounts for female personnel contributions to each mission in the 2010–2011 period.” [2] In other words, the article tests the aforementioned contributions (the separate independent variables) against the varying contribution to UNPOs (the dependent variable).

The dependent variable in this sudy is actually a binary dependent variable, with both the varying female contribution to UNPOs, and the varying male participation to UNPOs being tested in order to “establish whether [the] hypotheses hold specifically for females or whether they are validated because certain countries tend to contribute, or certain missions tend to attract, personnel regardless of gender.” [3] Crawford, Lebovic, and Macdonald operationalize this dependent variable with nominal values, with the number 1 representing female or male contribution in mission-year, and the number 0 representing no female or male contribution in mission-year. [4] This source is a qualitative data source.

I could model my own research project after the operationalization style that the authors in this article use. Upon first thought, I would say I don’t need a binary dependent variable because I’m really only interested in the female participation in peace-building processes, but Crawford, Lebovic, and Macdonald add an element of validity and replicability by measuring for both female and male participation, as both are accounted for and no unfair conclusions could (ideally) be drawn this way, since we are testing gender altogether. I could also operationalize my dependent variable (female, or female and male participation in peacebuilding) with nominal values, but instead of the unit of measurement being UNPO missions/year, I could make the measurement of participation leading a significant peacebuilding effort or not–like if there was a group of females or a leading woman or two managing a significant conflict resolution process.

If I operationalized my dependent variable in this way, Bosnia, for example, would past the test for participation. In Bosnia, leading female scholars began “an important triangle in feminist theological work that cross[ed] state and ethnonational borders and boundaries imposed after the dissolution of Yugoslavia.” [5] “It erupted from the need to provide religious answers and comfort for the shame and guilt female survivors of sexual trauma felt,” and developed into a methodology for women of all Abrahamistic traditions and ethnic groups to engage in powerful dialogue, even though they were once at war. [6] The network of women that feminist theology connected enabled, for the first time, collaboration by seemingly opposite “sides” of the war. It initiated dialogue between women of seemingly opposite worlds. This case study would have a 1 value assigned to it, as it does indeed satisfy women leading a significant peace-building operation.

I look forward to seeing how this dependent variable operationalization engages with the other possible case studies I have identified. I would love to have case studies that do not pass this test and receive a 0 numeric attachment, for no participation by a gender. This article provides a great outline for me to seek guidance from, both in terms of research modeling and the topic itself. I look forward to exploring more qualitative data sources.


[1] Kerry F. Crawford, James H. Lebovic, and Julia M. Macdonald, “Explaining the Variation in Gender Composition of Personnel Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations” Armed Forces & Society 41, 2 (2014), 257.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 269.

[4] Ibid, 271.

[5] Zilka Spahić-Šiljak. “Do It and Name It: Feminist Theology and Peace Building in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 29, 2 (2013), 181.

[6] Ibid, 184.